How to file for Bankruptcy without a Lawyer in Pennsylvania is a question we are often asked. The better answer to that question is you are usually much better off being represented by an experienced bankruptcy lawyer. In fact, by using a bankruptcy lawyer who is very familiar with the law, you will find yourself better protected than if you file on your own in Pennsylvania. Ask yourself, “Would you want to represent yourself in a personal injury action against an Insurance Company”?
You need to answer a lot of questions when considering to file for Bankruptcy.
1. Is Bankruptcy the Right move for you?
2. Do you need to file Bankruptcy? If so –
3. Should you file under Chapter 7 or under Chapter 13?
4. Can you properly fill in all the answers to the questions on all of the Bankruptcy schedules?
5. Can you fill in the type and value on the Schedule of Assets – this list includes the following plus many other items – bank accounts, cameras, jewelry, cars, retirement plans, collectibles, computers, guns, jewelry, retirement accounts, life insurance, personal injury cases, security deposits, property you gave someone else, etc.
6. Schedule of debts including priority, secured and unsecured debts and the proper classification of each debt.
7. Allowed Exemptions for the property you own and do you choose to use the exemptions allowed under Pennsylvania law or under Federal Law
8. The Means Test – Scheduling your last six months income as defined by law and testing to see if you are under the Pennsylvania Chapter 7 Bankruptcy or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy means test or does your income fall over the means test.
9. Schedules of all Income and all Expenses
10. Statement of Financial Affairs where you need to supply correct answers to your financial situation over the last several years
11. Other required forms
Have you complied with the Pre-Bankruptcy filing Requirements?
Have you complied with the Post-Bankruptcy Debtor education course?
I will discuss in detail bankruptcy cases where a person filed on their own and wound up with substantial problems as a result of representing themselves. These and other cases are the reasons why when we are asked How to file for Bankruptcy without a lawyer in Pennsylvania we explain what can happen if everything is not done right.
1) A person filed bankruptcy on their own and chose to file under chapter 7 instead of 13. The individual was in foreclosure and wanted to get caught up on the mortgage and the car payments. Since the person chose chapter 7, the full arrears on the mortgage had to be paid up to date immediately. The right approach would have been to file Chapter 13 and set up the Chapter 13 plan to protect the home by repaying the missed mortgage payments and auto loan payments.
2) An individual filed a chapter 7 case without realizing that she could lose her property. She did not have the income to pay back all her debt. However, she did own, a house, almost free and clear with only a small mortgage balance. By choosing to file under chapter 7, the trustee is able to sell the property. Had a Chapter 13 bankruptcy petition and plan been filled, the home could be saved without a problem and the woman would only have been required to pay back her bills over 5 years with no interest, which she had the ability to do.
3) A person filed under chapter 13 to pay their bills back. This mortgage was up to date and he did not have substantial equity in the property. Based on his income and expenses, he should have filed under chapter 7. There was no need for him to be in a plan in which he repays his bills. His mortgage was up to date. Had he spoken to a bankruptcy lawyer prior to filing he could have filed under chapter 7 and not have been required to be in a plan making payments on his unsecured bills.
4) A person filed under Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. There was a substantial amount of money owed on the car, much more than what the car was worth. The vehicle had been purchased more than two and a half years earlier. The person wanted to keep the car. He would have been better off filing under Chapter 13. First of all, he could have reduced the debt on the car to almost half of the loan balance due to the current value of the car. Second, he could have reduced the interest rate from about 18% down to 6%. Third, he could have paid off the reduced loan balance and reduced interest rate over a number of years without having to pay back the credit cards and personal loans.
In a Chapter 13 case, where you make payments, you must calculate the Chapter 13 plan based on your situation and you must break down who the trustee must pay first, second, third, etc and how much should be paid to each creditor. It is quite rare for a Chapter 13 plan to be successfully completed without the assistance of an experienced Bankruptcy Lawyer.
When you file a Bankruptcy you need to appear before the Trustee at your Mandatory Section 341 Meeting of creditors whether you file under Chapter 7 Bankruptcy or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy. At the Meeting of creditors, the trustee will examine your paperwork to make sure that every form has been properly completed, and all required documentation has been supplied. In addition, you want to be sure that you have chosen and claimed all of the proper exemptions to protect your real estate, your personal property, and other assets. The trustee will then ask you questions based on the paperwork filed with the Court, the documentation that has been supplied, and any outside sources the trustee checks and uses to verify the correctness of all of your answers. In addition, the trustee will review documents such as copies of tax returns, mortgage balances, car papers, bank account statements, life insurance statements, etc. Additionally, a Meeting of creditors tends to take longer when filing by yourself as the Trustee tends to question people longer under oath due to all of the required paperwork not usually being in order.
The hiring of an experienced Bankruptcy Lawyer can be the best investment you ever make – saving you many many thousands of dollars. If Bankruptcy is not the right move, or if it will cause you a problem, then the Bankruptcy Lawyer will tell you that you should not file Bankruptcy at the present time and how to legally plan out what to do. If you don’t have the money to file bankruptcy right away, there are good lawyers who will give you time to make payments if you are filing a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy while starting to work for you right away, or who will file a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy even if you have little money to pay prior to filing. A knowledgeable Consumer Bankruptcy lawyer knows you don’t have a lot of money and will offer a free consultation. He or she can also help you figure out how to file Bankruptcy and what to do financially.
An improperly filed Bankruptcy can cause a person to lose everything that he or she owns whereas a Bankruptcy filed with an experienced Bankruptcy lawyer will in many cases just cause you to lose all of your debts. When you file for Bankruptcy without a Lawyer in Pennsylvania you face a lot of risks you might not have expected. When you have an Attorney representing you, the attorney fills out all of the forms based on the information you supply to your lawyer and your meeting of creditors tends to be quicker and better prepared for.
While you may ask how to file for Bankruptcy without a Lawyer in Pennsylvania, we believe you will be glad you picked up the telephone to call us. As one client that we filed for said to us, you are the best thing that ever happened to me. She also said the worst mistake she made was waiting over six months to come to our office when she would have been put at ease had she come in much earlier. Our office has helped over 10,000 individuals and families in the Philadelphia area get a fresh start by filing for Bankruptcy relief. You can call The Law Offices of David M. Offen at (215) 625-9600. We will guide you on how to get out of your debts in Pennsylvania.